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High hopes for tourism
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 05 - 04 - 2018

The ITB Berlin, one of the world's leading travel shows, was held recently in the German capital with the attendance of Egyptian delegates who came back with promises of a blooming year for tourism in the country.
Minister of Tourism Rania Al-Mashat met with local and foreign representatives of the travel and tourism industry to emphasise the government's insistence on prioritising tourism as a cornerstone for a recovering national economy.
Egypt came in second on the list of growing tourist destinations in 2017, according to the World Tourism Organisation (WTO). Al-Mashat affirmed that more tourists visited the country last year, citing government efforts, improved infrastructure, cooperation between the public and private sectors, improvements in Egypt's image abroad, new markets, and the promotion of different tourist resorts and activities as important reasons for the upsurge.
Al-Mashat said tourism had an important role to play in improving the economy and achieving social development. Besides being a source of foreign currency, tourism has helped create job opportunities, with 60 per cent of employees in the travel sector belonging to the 17 to 35 age group and explaining the field's attraction to young people. There was still room for more participation from women in tourism employment, Al-Mashat added.
She stressed that the ministry was giving great importance to training in the tourist sector to improve the quality of services provided.
The meetings included representatives from the German travel association Die Reiswirtchaft (DRV), a leading lobby group, and the Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry (BTW). Germany's contribution to solving the problem of decreasing tourist numbers would help the tourism sector in Egypt to employ more young people, helping to provide sustainable employment, Al-Mashat said.
She asked the DRV to consider placing Egypt with competing destinations when it came to taxes levied on German tourists. It was difficult, she explained, to accept that German tourists pay 27 euros to visit Egypt and only seven euros to travel to Turkey, for example.
Organising trips for German journalists to Egypt to see for themselves how the country was enjoying stability was also important, Al-Mashat suggested.
The ministry is interested in new tourist resorts, and recent archaeological excavations in the south of the country may encourage tourist trips to historical areas in Upper Egypt. New cities such as New Alamein will house many international hotel chains, providing more job opportunities and helping develop the tourist industry.
Minister of Civil Aviation Sherif Fathi and Al-Mashat also met with representatives of German airlines that organise flights to Egypt, including Air Germania, Sun Express and Small Planet.
To encourage the airlines to increase their flights to Egypt Fathi announced that the ministry would not impose taxes on flights when planes did not carry a national flag. The taxes, estimated at $4,500 per flight, will be lifted for a year starting in October.
On the sidelines of the ITB, Al-Mashat met with Zurab Poloikashriti, the secretary-general of the WTO. Poloikashriti said the organisation was looking forward to starting a project to develop the Montazah area of Alexandria, in which it is participating both financially and technically.
The WTO believed the area would become a magnet for tourists from all over the world, he said.
During the meeting, Al-Mashat agreed that Egypt would host the 44th WTO Middle East Committee in Sharm El-Sheikh in May. The two parties also saw eye-to-eye on the importance of the WTO's assisting Egyptian government efforts to secure the country's tourist destinations.
Al-Mashat met with the tourism ministers of Greece, Morocco, Jordan and the US in order to coordinate cooperation efforts. The ministers agreed to encourage tourist trips between their countries and shared details of promotion schemes and ways of integrating the public and private sectors.
“German travel operators are now looking to Egypt. Workers in Egypt's travel sector should concentrate on better quality and services in airports, hotels or elsewhere and on the relationship with tourists,” said Hossam Al-Shaer, head of the Sunrise and Blue Sky travel agencies and a partner in a German tour organisation.
In order to attract more tourists, awareness campaigns should be held to this effect, he added.
“We have been attending the ITB for the past 20 years because it is the largest gathering of tour operators in the world. We usually discuss the next tourism season. This year I had the impression that there is more demand for Egypt's tourist destinations. I expect a 30 per cent increase in tourists to Egypt this year,” Al-Shaer said.
“A number of German painters will visit Luxor and Aswan for 15 days soon. Through their eyes and paintings Germany will see Egypt's civilisation. We will also host German parliamentarians during a trip to Egypt's famous tourist destinations so that they can take their experiences back to their country and their people,” said Mohamed Othman, a member of the Chamber of Travel Agencies and spokesperson for the Egyptian Cultural Tourism Association.
Magdi Sadek, chair of the board of a travel agency and a member of the Chamber of Travel Agencies, said that “we went to the ITB to change Egypt's image. It is not only about heritage and beaches. The country's religious tourism is also very rich because Egypt is a sacred land, and we have offered the itinerary of the Holy Family in Egypt to German travel programmes. The itinerary includes seven or eight places through which the Holy Family passed during their flight into Egypt.”
“We have also arranged trips with tour organisers in Stuttgart and Munich, and we are addressing specialised religious tourism associations in Berlin to organise trips for groups ranging from 15 to 50 tourists,” Sadek said.
President of the DRV Norbert Fiebig said that “the biggest trend this year — of that we can already be certain — is early booking. German tour operators' early booking figures have been much higher compared to the same period last year and by exactly 18 per cent. The reason for this is not the cost of travel, but a 16 per cent increase in demand.”
“As far as destinations are concerned, the eastern Mediterranean is the favourite this year,” Fiebig added.
“Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco are set for growth. According to the latest summer booking figures, Egypt is the fourth most popular destination for German holidaymakers, after Spain, Greece and Turkey, with sales having risen by 64 per cent,” he said.

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